Thanks to a rare medical condition, a Washington state woman found out that pregnancy was not enough to prove motherhood; DNA testing indicated that she was, in fact, not the mother of her own children – so who was?
During the course of a desperate battle to retain custody of her three children, it was discovered that her twin was the real biological parent.
The twist? She, 26-year-old Lydia Fairchild, was her own twin.
By the time Fairchild was 23 years old, she had given birth to two children and was pregnant with a third. Her relationship with the father had been rocky. They separated – not for the first time – and she found herself, at 26, a struggling, single mother; out of work and unable to support her kids.
In order to qualify for financial assistance in supporting her young family, Fairchild was required to undergo DNA testing to prove that she was the mother of children for whom she was claiming.
In December, 2002, Fairchild was contacted by the Washington state prosecutor’s office and told to come in to discuss the test results. To her horror, the young mother was informed that she would be the subject of an investigation into possible welfare fraud as the DNA tests had revealed no genetic link between her and the children she claimed were hers.
The inevitable interrogation and investigation followed as Fairchild was barraged with questions. Who was she? Who was the real mother?
Around the same time, another woman, Karen Keegan, was facing a similar situation as a potential kidney donor situation indicated no genetic link between Keegan and two or her own three sons. Fortunately for her, her doctors realized that she might have that rare condition known as chimerism.
Derived from the name of a strange hybrid creature, the Chimera of Greek legend, this condition had been documented just 30 times throughout the world. Those rare individuals, dubbed “Chimeras”, had started out as twins; in the early stage of pregnancy, one of the twins had merged with – been absorbed by, one could almost say – the other twin.
The cells of the consumed twin, however, did not disappear and remained alive in one concentrated area of their sibling’s body. In essence, a human chimera is one person made up of two separate sets of genetic material; they are, in fact, their own twins.
In Kreegan’s case, doctors tracked down a long-removed thyroid nodule that wound up having – yep, you guessed it – DNA that matched that of her sons.
In Fairchid’s case, nobody involved in her case had even heard of chimerism, so she found herself in court in threat of losing custody of her own children. Lydia Fairchild had an ace up her sleeve, however – she was already pregnant with another child. With a court-appointed witness to the birth, the blood samples nevertheless showed no genetic link between baby and mother.
Fairchild then finally caught a break, and one of the prosecutors (irony duly noted) happened across an article in the New England Journal of Medicine about Karen Keegan’s case. Finally, after sixteen more months of hell, the case against Fairchild was dismissed.
DNA may be a crazy powerful tool, but here, as with the problem of twins (helped in that case by the fact that identical twins do not actually have the same fingerprints), there lies a cautionary tale about lending infinite credence to DNA, for the world is a very, very strange place.
Via Liberty Voice for the full fascinating (and twisted) story.